Guardians of Each Other’s Rights

It was a normal Tuesday afternoon and everyone was minding their own business. Suddenly, some guy on the street, simply thinking that he had the right to say whatever he liked, threw nasty words in my direction. As if he had every right granted to him by every authority on this earth, he dared to not fear the ears overhearing what he said and went on his way. I think the filth came out of the fact that he not only a lack of respect for me as a human being, but also due to the fact that he lacked respect for himself to begin with. That being said, I cannot blame him fully for what he did since he was rather intoxicated, but my question is raised to those that were witness to it without taking any action.

It is sad to think that a Federal station was across the street from where the incident happened and none of them decided to lend a helping hand because the situation hadn’t become physical. What was even worse was the fact that some of the bystanders, once the situation had already cooled off, decided to give me their two cents. We all know that in our society it is more than common to have people join in conversations, disputes, debates and stories. However, when will we ever react enough to not only stop anything from happening, but to have it happening when it is more opportune and likely to help?

In this situation, the one person that said anything at all was more interested in making me feel bad for standing up for myself, rather than trying to comprehend what had happened. Even after I asked him why he had made that decision, rather than telling the guy off, the confused Samaritan didn’t change his reaction. Why though? Why is it so important for people to immediately take a stand without first knowing what the actual problem is? Why is it the victim’s role to stay calm? How about ganging up on the wrongdoer instead, making them think twice about being rude the next time around?

I immediately went across the street to address the Federal policemen. They informed me that none of them had witnessed the situation and, with further interrogation, informed me that nobody wanted third party interference between two people, especially male and female, anymore. Is this what our nation has become – a silent nation? From one that told the neighbour’s children to stop doing wrong to one that turns a blind eye constantly?

There should come a time in our lives when we all begin to question our roles in society. Watching injustice and allowing it to pass without taking any action only means that we are happy to be treated in that way as well. Turning a blind eye to the most infuriating situations only means that we aren’t abhorred and are therefore agreeing with them.

I must admit that street harassment isn’t a new thing in our world and it has become much better for us in Addis, but why should we still stay silent on the matter? When we think of the number of decades it took the previous generations to change the situation in silence, it makes me think that if we were all to speak up against our harassers we would bring about a much faster change.

Coming back to our initial storyline, the Federal policemen were very responsive and helpful. Though the fact that they were sad that they couldn’t help for a couple of reasons I didn’t understand saddened me, I am happy that they at least had my back afterwards. It makes me wonder why we don’t assume our rights and obligations as citizens of our country. Are we forgetting that it is with functioning body parts that the body can function as a whole?


By Christine Yohannes
Christine Yohannes writes about social change, performs at public events and conducts poetry workshops in schools. She has established a monthly event entitled “Poetic Saturdays” - a platform created to allow everyone the freedom of self-expression through art. She can be contacted at poeticsaturdays@gmail.Com

Published on Aug 23,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 851]



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